TERRY GIBBS SWINGING HARD AT 92!
June 1, 2017 by Helen Borgers

 

Terry had this crazy idea: he thought he retired! At 92, he thought he was slowing down. Fortunately, his son, drummer Gerry Gibbs, knew better. After a spontaneous jam in Terry’s livingroom -- caught on video on Gerry’s wife’s cell phone -- went viral on the internet, Gerry thought they should make a whole record. After some persuasion, Terry agreed … on condition that it be recorded in his house.  Playing the age card worked for this issue, and it ended up benefiting everyone, as they’d play a few tunes, go out to the pool, sit around, eat something, exchange stories and laugh together, and then go back in and record some more…very leisurely. They recorded in this way over four days. The result is a swinging collection of mostly-standard songs, with a few original blues by Terry, titled 92 Years Young: Jammin’ at the Gibbs House.

 

 

The quartet is made up of the two Gibbs, pianist John Campbell, and bassist Mike Gurrola.

 

The youngest of the group, 26-year-old Mike, is a 2009 graduate of the L.A. County High School for the Arts, with numerous awards to his credit.  He attended the Centrum Jazz Workshop in Port Townsend, Washington, directed by John Clayton, and later was selected for an exclusive five week summer workshop at Berklee, directed by Terri Lyne Carrington.  By the end of High School, he had become so busy as a professional jazz bassist that he opted not to accept scholarships to attend prestigious music conservatories. Instead, he took gigs with Eric Reed, Mary Stallings, Jeff Hamilton, Houston Person, Benny Green, Larry Goldings, Willie Jones III, Harry Allen, Jane Monheit, Kenny Burrell, and Wynton Marsalis, among others. 

 

Interestingly, while in college in Illinois, John was known almost as well for his vibes playing as his piano playing! However, after making his name in Chicago as a pianist in the ‘70s (“the finest young keyboard man in town, and one of the better pianists anywhere,” said the Chicago Sun-Times jazz critic, Neil Tesser), he moved to New York in the ‘80s, playing and recording with Mel Torme, Joe Williams, Anita O’Day, Lionel Hampton, Cleo Laine, Stan Getz, and Clark Terry, among many others, and has since performed all over the world! Also in the ‘80s, he met up with Terry Gibbs and Buddy DeFranco. They made two discs together, with Gerry on drums, and James Moody’s bassist, Todd Coolman. Terry was so impressed, he produced a disc featuring John’s trio for Contemporary Records. John now lives here in Los Angeles.

 

Terry grew up in a musical household. His brother taught him how to play drums and xylophone, and his father, a professional violinist and bandleader, hired Terry to play drums in his band. Terry fell in love with bebop while in the army, and after his discharge, he went to New York to learn how to play it. He joined Allen Eager’s Bebop Boys (with Max Roach on drums) and learned how to play vibes. The rest of his story is an exciting, celebrity-filled, award-winning, and ground-breaking career (which is captured beautifully in Terry’s autobiography, Good Vibes).

 

Like his father, Gerry had the benefit of growing up in a musical family and, like his father, he proved his talent at an early age. He started playing drums (given to him by Buddy Rich) at the age of 4.  By the time he was 7, he was a veteran, having played on various television shows, including a 3-minute drum solo on Steve Allen’s program! By 22, his resume included work with Alice Coltrane, Woody Shaw, Donald Byrd, Harold Land, Benny Maupin, Larry Gales, Horace Tapscott, Frank Morgan, Conte Candoli, Frank Rosolino, Alan Broadbent, Ernie Watts, Billy Childs, and his father’s many groups. For the last 30 years, Gerry has lived in New York. As a leader, his latest trio discs (with Kenny Barron and Ron Carter) rode the jazz charts at #1 for several weeks, and his new disc, a tribute to Weather Report (Weather or Not) is doing equally well.

 

Besides an abundance of talent, Gerry has inherited a sense of humor and a zest for life from Terry. This is especially apparent when they’re playing together.  You can tell how much fun they’re having by the joyous sound of the music, but you can also hear Terry laugh at a clever move by John in “Take the A Train.”

 

 

The pace at which they recorded is about the only leisurely aspect of the project. The tempos of the tunes are all medium, to fast, to very fast! Out of the 14 tracks, there is only one slow ballad, and that is a lovely version of Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Imagination.” Terry says that there was no pre-recording meeting to decide which songs to play. He just called a tune he felt like playing, and if they all knew it, they played it. All of the tracks are one-takes. They recorded 31 songs in all, and then Terry selected his favorites for the release, 75 minutes of music!

 

And, as if further proof was needed that there is no slowing down the powerhouse known as Terry Gibbs, this is one of Terry’s originals, which they recorded at 285 beats per minute! It’s called “Here It Is.” (At the very end, you can hear how Terry even surprised himself at the speed at which they were playing.)

 

 

As fellow-vibraphonist, Warren Wolf, writes in the liner notes, “Listening to what he demonstrates here, I believe he could easily record a few more CDs….” Or, as the late trumpeter Conte Candoli once said about Terry retiring, "Not Terry. He'll just chew his gum and keep playing."

 

For more information, visit whalingcitysound.com.

 

 

On-air personality, Helen Borgers, can be heard on KJazz 88.1 FM from 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday. As a jazz broadcaster, Helen has been invited to give pre-concert lectures at various performing arts centers, served on panels in jazz conventions all over the world, and lectured about the history of jazz in middle schools, high schools, and colleges. She has also written articles for international jazz publications and regularly emcees concerts, festivals, and club dates throughout southern California.
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